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(L to R) Councillor Winston Connolly , and Minister Tara Rivers, meet with executives from all public school Parent Teacher Associations (PTA’s).

Published 10th December 2013, 10:1am

PTA Executive Committees from all government schools, including Cayman Brac were invited to attend a Parent Forum hosted by Hon. Tara Rivers, Minister of Education, Employment and Gender Affairs.

The Forum was held on Thursday, 5th December, 2013 at the Government Administration Building. Minister Rivers expressed that while it is important to visit schools and meet with PTAs, there is also great importance in bringing the executive committees together as a group as it provided opportunities for members to:-

  • give feedback about the successes and challenges in their schools,
  • network,
  • share ideas about initiatives undertaken by the various PTAs and,
  • learn from one another.

Mrs. Mary Rodrigues, Chief Officer in the Ministry of Education, Employment and Gender Affairs as well as representatives from the Policy and Planning Unit of the Ministry of Education were on hand to hear the feedback from parents and answer questions. They were joined by their colleagues at the Department of Education Services (DES).

The Forum provided PTA Executive members an opportunity to express their concerns to the people who were in a position to answer their questions, provide clarity and offer support. It was one way to create a bridge between the efforts made by parents to improve their schools, and the policy makers of the Ministry and the operational branch at the DES.

Minister Rivers acknowledged the importance of engaging parents as partners in their children’s learning.

In addition to the six strategic goals in the Strategic Plan for Education, Minister Rivers identified the following key areas for strategic focus which was met with widespread support by the audience:-

  1. Introduction of a Crime Reduction Strategy/Curriculum
  2. Conflict Resolution Training
  3. Special Education Needs, including provision for Gifted and Talented Students
  4. Vocational Training
  5. Gender related concerns such as, targeting underperforming boys in the school system
  6. Strengthening the provision of the Primary Years Programme (IB)
  7. International Comparisons
  8. National Standards for Graduation
  9. ICT Integration

Winston Connolly, Councillor in the Ministry of Education, Employment and Gender Affairs; pointed out that improving the education system doesn’t run in four year election cycles. He stressed that he and Minister ‘are not interested in tinkering with what was done before just for the sake of change. We are committed to seeking real results and we recognise the importance of parents as a part of that process.’

Minster Rivers said ‘as parents you have a vested interest in your children and their peers. Everyone in this room signed up for the PTA Executive Committee not because it is easy but because you want our education system to work and you are willing to put in the hours to do that.’ She applauded their efforts and said she was encouraged to see such a great turn out which was a testament to their commitment.

When asked what they were hoping to get out of the meeting all parents expressed that they want to:-

  • hear the plans for education from the Minister,
  • having meaningful discourse with each other and the Ministry representatives,
  • build partnerships and have a collaborative approach to improving the education system,
  • advocate for the needs of their schools,
  • share ideas and learn from one another.

As an introductory activity to share ideas, PTA Presidents identified and shared:-

  • one project that each PTA has done to make a positive impact at their school and,
  • one project that each PTA is currently tackling.

In the main activity of the night the PTA Executive Committees worked in groups to discuss and then share:-

  • their views on what is working well,
  • their views on what improvements could be made,
  • ways that PTAs can assist in making improvements and addressing issues raised,
  • ways the Ministry and DES can help PTAs to be more effective in their roles.

Parents resoundingly expressed their gratitude for being invited to participate in the forum. For many, it was the first time they had the opportunity to meet with the Minister in such a forum and to collaborate as a group. They thanked Minister Rivers for giving them the chance to have their views expressed and to get answers to their questions. The Cayman Brac members voiced that they truly felt included and commended Minister Rivers for arranging for them to be a part of this process.

This is the first in a series of meetings organised to promote a collaborative approach to education. Minister Rivers will be meeting with the group again in February 2014 to follow up on issues raised and to answer questions.